You’ve had the interview, taken a tour of the workplace and the people you’ll work with, and if you’re from out-of-town, took in some sights and tours of prospective neighborhoods you might move to before heading home. Soon after, you get the call: you’re being offered the job! If your gut feeling is “Hell, yes!”—or you’re in dire straits—the answer is an unqualified, “I’ll take it!” However, what if your gut isn’t 100% positive, what then?

More times than not, when your brain is telling you “Not so fast,” there’s a really good reason to listen to it—it’s picking up on something that, unconsciously or otherwise, senses that something is wrong.

Think back to when you interviewed for the job—what was going on around you? You can tell a lot about a company by just looking and listening. Some examples:

  • What was the demeanor of the workers—did they appear content or were they silent and withdrawn or loud and angry? Workplaces with discontented workers betrays signs of low or poor morale.
  • If the office is a “cubicle farm”? Studies have shown that cubicles hinder, rather than enhance, community, communication, and are noisy and full of distractions. If you distract easily, or need a sense of community, you’ll find it difficult to work there. Also, did you notice whether individual cubicles all unadorned with no sign of individuality? If you’re a non-conformist, then you’ll definitely be unhappy there.
  • Was your immediate supervisor at the interview? What was s/he like? Was his/her personality one that seemed to grate against you or was s/he too interested in you? Either way, it’s a bad sign. On the flip side, if you didn’t get to meet your supervisor that’s a bad sign as well—not knowing who you’re going to work is taking a big gamble since s/he could either be a saint or Satan.

What about answers to your questions? (You did ask questions, right?) Did their answers make you uncomfortable? In my experience I have two examples where the answers were very revealing:

  • Once, when I interviewed for a job as a technical writer for a helicopter re-manufacturer (of a specific model helicopter), I asked where they got their helicopters from. “Mostly wrecks rotting away in Asia,” was the answer.

“What if you don’t find any more wrecks?” I asked.

“Well, we’re working on that,” was the reply. That was a red flag since if they didn’t know when and where they were going to get product next then that could adversely affect the company—no wrecks to find then people will be laid off.

  • I’m an older worker so when I strode into one interview I could visibly see the interviewers’ faces drop. I knew right then that the interview was essentially over but they went through the motions, anyway, since they were legally bound to treat me the same as all the other interviewees. I casually asked about health insurance coverage and was told that the company was self-insured, meaning that the company doesn’t subscribe to an insurer—the company, itself, pays for medical care. That’s a red flag because many companies that are self-insured usually let go those workers who cost them too much in healthcare costs. So, even if they offered me the job I would’ve said no thanks. (The moral here is that you need to think ahead of what your needs are as well as the company’s.)

In addition, it’s a fair question to ask your prospective manager why the last person in the position left. You may not get a truthful answer, or an answer at all, but you can gauge a lot by how the question is answered. There’s an adage, “People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.” If the manager is less than forthcoming or is hemming and hawing, then you can bet that you won’t get much honesty out of him/her either on the job, either.

It’s fair to ask about pay—how is it increased? Automatically to match inflation? By company profits? By merit? How often are raises awarded? If the company offers raises based on performance and it’s been losing money the last few years then that’s a red flag.

Speaking of needs, what about outside the company? What are the neighborhoods like? The commute? Crime rate? Availability of quality healthcare? Affordable grocery markets and other shopping? Housing costs? Amenities (like a garage for your car)? Weather/Climate? Even geography can be a factor. (I live in a steep valley so it’s futile to indulge in my ham radio hobby since my radio signals would go up, not out. If the hobby was an important part of my happiness then I’d be miserable living in the area I’m in now. But, it’s not—it’s just a hobby that I’ll put on the back burner for now.) The point I’m trying to make is that before accepting a job you have to give thought to everything involved with it. If you get bad vibes about surroundings and people, trust them and don’t take the job—you just can’t spend a third of your day, or longer, being miserable. It’s just not worth it.

There’s an old saying: “When in doubt, don’t.” Oftentimes, saying “No” is the best, most empowering decision you can make for yourself and your family. More times than not, you’ll won’t look back with regret by making that decision.